Chapter II: Consumption, Affluence, New Style and New Structures
It matters not how straight the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”
The main indicators of middle class status are: ownership, a good job, affluence and life style.
Ownership is the foundation of middle-class society. Having a business, capital or rare expert qualifications demanded by the labour market makes a difference – owners are inclined to regard their efforts and look to the future with greater confidence and self-reliance. In big cities, traffic jams have become an unanticipated offshoot of the development of the market society: driving downtown along Wybrzeże Gdańskie (a street in Warsaw), one can experience a sense of community with other car owners. Endorsement of the same rules and affinity of beliefs are distinctive traits of the specific category assembling owners of vehicles, houses and apartments, means of production, commodities and other forms of property – ownership as such does not make them a separate “class,” but it definitely singles them out from other social categories. Nothing comes anywhere near ownership in terms of motivating effort, hard work and investments in self-development. And few things offer gratification matching that of a growing banking account and occupational advancement. So far, no better way has been invented to instil self-discipline, belief in stability, regard for the social order, support for democracy and commitment to orderliness. People who own something feel free and...
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